No Easy Solution to Preventing Mass Shooting

Member Group : Matt Mackowiak

Millions of Americans woke up Monday morning to the worst mass shooting in our nation’s history.

It was shocking. The stories of both sheer horror and stunning courage in turn shake us and inspire us.

Partisans on both sides immediately retreat to their corners when a case of gun violence becomes a national story.

They are both right �" and they are both wrong.

An overwhelming majority of us would be delighted to identify a policy or law that would prevent mass killing incidents.

But the problem does not lend itself to an easy solution.

Mass shootings may be on the rise, but they are also individually distinct.
The motives, circumstances, targets and logistical details are entirely unique.

In light of this attack, many Americans have reacted by proposing legislative ideas that would prevent this exact attack from reoccurring, which is extraordinarily unlikely.

The gunman, Stephen Paddock, bought his guns legally, including his “bump” stocks, which modify semi-automatic weapons to enable an increased rate of firing. This can be easily mistaken for an automatic weapon, the purchase of which have been illegal in the U.S. since 1986.

In fact, an automatic weapon has been used in a crime in the U.S. only three times since 1934. Current gun laws related to automatic weapons appear to be working.

The term “assault weapons” has no legal definition and is widely misused to describe all types of guns. A ban on so-called assault weapons narrowly passed in Congress in 1994 and expired 10 years later. A study conducted by The University of Pennsylvania found that the Assault Weapons Ban had negligible effect on reducing gun crime.

The focus is rightly turning to semi-automatic weapons.

Paddock used the bump stocks, which temporarily modify the gun by using the recoil to allow rapid firing, to increase the lethality of his gunfire.

Some Republicans are beginning to express support for banning bump stocks, including Senate Homeland Security Committee Chairman Ron Johnson, Wisconsin Republican, and Rep. Bill Flores, Texas Republican, a gun owner and former chairman of the conservative Republican Study Committee.

As Sean Davis, a senior editor at The Federalist and a 2nd Amendment rights defender recently tweeted, “The win-win common sense compromise right now is to add bump stocks and binary triggers to the NFA [National Firearms Act] and to remove suppressors.”

This would make bump stocks subject to registration and require reporting to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) when permanently transported across state lines.

The single most insightful analysis that I have seen post-Vegas came from statistician Leah Libresco, who wrote that she was a gun control supporter until she studied the issue and over time it became “less and less clear that one broad gun-control restriction could make a big difference.”

Her study, conducted at Five Thirty Eight with several colleagues, looked at the 33,000 gun deaths in the U.S. each year. Two-thirds of those are suicides and one-fifth come from young men (15-34) being killed in homicides (mostly gang and street violence and domestic violence).

Shouldn’t we try to solve the two types of deaths by gun in the U.S. that account for over 85 percent of gun deaths annually?

Her solution won’t fit on a bumper sticker or in a 30-second sound bite.

She wrote, “Older men, who make up the largest share of gun suicides, need better access to people who could care for them and get them help. Women endangered by specific men need to be prioritized by police, who can enforce restraining orders prohibiting these men from buying and owning guns. Younger men at risk of violence need to be identified before they take a life or lose theirs and to be connected to mentors who can help them de-escalate conflicts.”

This will be unsatisfying for many people who desperately want to do something to prevent another mass shooting.

But in this case, it appears a wealthy man who had a hunting license legally purchased numerous guns, legally purchased two bump stocks, and selected an elevated location to fire on a crowd of innocent people. He passed every background check. He had no history of mental illness. Days after the shooting occurred, nothing appears to be known about his motive.

This shooting will go down in history as one of the worst to ever occur on this planet.

We all pray nothing like it occurs again.

It was a singular event that could not be predicted and cannot be replicated.

The best way to honor the memory of everyone who was killed or injured is to focus on the predictable categories of gun crime �" that is where we can make the greatest difference.

Matt Mackowiak is the president of Austin, Texas, and Washington, D.C.-based Potomac Strategy Group, a Republican consultant, a Bush administration and Bush-Cheney re-election campaign veteran and former press secretary to two U.S. senators. His national politics podcast, “Mack on Politics,” may be found on iTunes, Google Play, Stitcher and on the web at

Matt Mackowiak
Potomac Strategy Group, LLC

AUSTIN: 807 Brazos St, Ste 810, Austin, TX, 78701 | office: (512) 469-9090 | fax: (512) 532-0999
WASHINGTON: 1238 Wisconsin Ave, Suite 401, Washington, DC 20007 | office: (703) 829-0014 | fax: (202) 318-8590

Twitter: @MattMackowiak
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